‘Love in Taipei’ Director and Author Explain Why the Film’s Ending Deviates From the Book

“Loveboat, Taipei” author Abigail Hing Wen and director Arvin Chen tell TheWrap about the adaptation’s differences

Ashley Liao as Ever Wong in Love in Taipei, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. (Photo credit: Dragon 5/Paramount+)

“Love in Taipei,” the Paramount+ original movie based on Abigail Hing Wen’s book “Loveboat, Taipei,” ends with main character Ever Wong (Ashley Liao) making several big decisions, but it also marks a significant departure from where Wen’s book concludes.

Sent by her parents to a cultural immersion program in Taiwan for the summer, Ever gets in better touch with her heritage while embarking on her own journey of self-discovery. As she struggles through Mandarin calligraphy classes, Ever blossoms socially with the help of Sophie Ha (Chelsea Zhang), and she further solidifies her desire to pursue dancing as her dream career, not the practical path of medical school that her parents have coached her into since they came to the United States from Taiwan. She also meets two very different young men who relate to her obstacles in various ways — Boy Wonder Rick Woo (Ross Butler) and troublemaker Xavier Yeh (Nico Hiraga).

Author Abigail Hing Wen, who executive produced the adaptation of her novel, spoke to the broader theme of Asian American stories being included in Hollywood, contextualizing Ever’s story within that conversation.

“The main kind of arc for Ever is the story of discovery, understanding what her identity is, and all its facets. That is a journey that’s reflected in all my main characters. That thesis — can we be ourselves, can we bring our full selves to the table because that’s really where our power and our strength comes from — that’s one of the biggest takeaways,” Wen told TheWrap. “The other aspect is, for folks who are not as familiar with Asian Americans or the community, to show they are human like everyone else. So they fall in love. They make good choices, they make bad choices, they recover from those bad choices, and they move on as even better human beings.”

The love triangle resolves in an open-ended way in the film, with Ever leaning towards starting a relationship with Xavier after she has explored one with Rick.

“When it comes to the two guys, the idea is that you should go with the one that challenges you, not the one that is the safe choice. The way we looked at it is that Rick can’t stand up to his parents or his family. He lets [Ever] down because of that,” director Arvin Chen told TheWrap. “What she needs to learn to do is stand up to her family. As much as she and Rick can sympathize or empathize with each other, because of that family pressure, ultimately, he succumbs to it still. They have that connection, and yet at the same time, he’s the version of her that can’t ever get past that.”

The film differs significantly from Wen’s first book in a trilogy, but she encourages viewers to get the books to learn more of the story after watching the film.

“What I’m super excited about is like hearing what the fans think. There’s always team Rick versus team Xavier. The movie is ending at a different place than the first book ends and you’ll see it as you’re reading,” she said. “There is a moment when things line up with the film’s ending, so I think what I’m excited about, at this stage, is pointing people towards the rest of the books [and saying] ‘Here’s the rest of the story. If you want to find out what happens next.’”

“Loveboat, Taipei” is followed by “Loveboat Reunion,” which focuses more on Xavier and Sophie’s characters. The third book in the trilogy, “Loveboat Forever,” arrives November 2023.

“The big major theme that I take away and that I also gravitated more towards is the idea that sometimes, you have to go somewhere uncomfortable to find yourself or get out of your comfort zone to grow,” director Arvin Chen told TheWrap. “You need to get outside of yourself a little bit to find yourself.

Ever’s organization of a benefit festival to raise money for those affected by a typhoon that hits Taipei towards the end of the story marks the film’s climax, not only in her dance dreams coming to fruition but in that Ever tells her parents how she feels about medical school.

“When she just tells her parents [after her dance], she’s honest with them for the first time. I don’t think it’s a huge life-shifting change in her. It’s just a little incremental change,” Chen said. “But if you look at Rick, Rick isn’t even able to make that incremental change, which, to me, makes Ross’s character more likable in a way because you sympathize with this guy who’s so perfect that he has to keep being perfect. Xavier the character, the whole time he doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him. I think Ever probably needs to arrive at something in between that.”

Chen said they wanted to end the film in a way that left more room for Ever to grow, and added that there’s certainly more story to tell should an adaptation of the other two books move forward.

“There are two other books and they’re all still about these four people in relationships. We wanted to leave it, not open-ended, but all Ever really did is just realize that like she’s got more to figure out as opposed to, she’s solved everything,” Chen said. “She basically says [to Xavier] ‘Let’s just go with this, and I got more to work on. I think it’s a good place to be for her. The idea is that she shouldn’t have figured out everything perfectly. She’s happy with Xavier in the moment, and that’s probably all we can do in this story. Abigail has tons more stories, and the books have a lot more stories. It just depends on how well this one does and if the producers want to make more, but I think there’s room for [a sequel], for sure.”

“Love in Taipei” is now streaming on Paramount+.